You can now preorder the Valve Index, a high-end VR headset with some class-leading features, and a price to match ($999 for the complete bundle). Who is this for and should you buy it?
The Valve Index display has a resolution of 1600 x 1440 per eye (same as Vive Pro or Samsung Odyssey), with a refresh rate of 120 hz and even an experimental 144 hz mode. It has extremely low persistence of 0.330ms to 0.530ms, which Valve says is a five-fold improvement over 1st-generation VR headsets.
The Valve Index can position the lens very close to the eye for a wider field of view of 130 degrees (vs around 110 degrees for the HTC Vive). It also has special canted lenses to improve the field of view, and dual-element lenses to widen the sweet spot and reduce distortion.
The Valve Index’s tracking is unusual. It has two cameras that are designed for inside out tracking but it will use the lighthouse-based tracking that the HTC Vive and Vive Pro use. It is backward compatible with SteamVR 1.0 lighthouses but its bundle includes SteamVR 2.0 lighthouses that can cover a larger area. Valve is inviting computer vision companies to develop software to use inside out tracking.
The Valve Index has two new controllers previously nicknamed ‘knuckles’ by VR enthusiasts and now formally called the Valve Index Controllers. They strap onto your hands, allowing you to let go of the controllers without dropping them. The controllers also have 87 sensors to detect individual movement for each finger and even grip pressure. This makes it possible to do moves such as squeezing or crushing.
The Valve Index Controllers are compatible with HTC Vive and Vive Pro as well, and can be purchased separately from the Valve Index Bundle ($279). This is a brilliant move and ensures that any games designed for the VIC can be played even on older headsets.
The Index has built-in audio and uses a unique speaker design that suspends the speakers away from your ears. Valve claims that this design makes the sound appear from the environment rather than “inside your head.”
Here’s a hands-on review by Tested:
Who is this headset for?
The Valve Index is clearly intended for the enthusiast, as opposed to a first-time VR buyer. I think Valve knows they can’t compete with Oculus in terms of reaching the widest audience, so I think targeting the enthusiast niche is an excellent strategy.
Personally I’m very tempted to get the Valve Index myself. What I find most attractive is the controller, and to a lesser extent, the display. My biggest hesitation is the need to setup the sensors, and we have a small house and I don’t have a permanent VR space. I’m considering getting the controllers and then buying a used Vive but it starts to add up. At this point I guess I’ll wait and see how many games support the new controller.